Joburg takes ‘giant leap’ towards smart city,
The City of Johannesburg (COJ) has taken what it says is a “giant leap” towards dissolving the digital divide, with the launch of its Smart Citizen Programme, which includes the rollout of free Internet and WiFi in libraries across the city.
COJ executive mayor Parks Tau unveiled the city’s library connectivity plans at the Sandton Public Library on Friday, in a move he said was a “digital game-changer”.
Themed “Connect @ your library”, the project is part of the COJ’s drive to accelerate the use of technology as a means to facilitate and promote learning and literacy.
“The theme speaks to the Smart Citizen Programme that will see the city not only connecting people to the library, but also linking them to the global world through WiFi and Internet access at libraries,” says the COJ.
Smart city strategy
Member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for community development in Johannesburg, Chris Vondo, says Friday’s launch was one of the highlights of the COJ’s smart city strategy – a long-term plan it aims to have completed by 2040.
Vondo says the city’s smart city strategy is designed to bridge the digital divide in Johannesburg by providing technology and free access to electronic information resources to all communities. “It also promotes e-government initiatives which encourage meaningful participatory governance between the city and its citizens.”
The e-learning programme will be rolled out to 30 libraries, says the MMC, adding the rollout − in partnership with partners such as Think Ahead − is significant, because it is an important aspect of human and social development. “Early childhood education, adult basic education and support to schools and libraries are important building blocks to ensure long-term barriers to education and learning are reduced.
“In this sense, the e-learning programme is a platform to bridge the digital divide. E-learning occurs either within a formal classroom environment or virtual access to learning material. It can be self-paced or tutor-based,” says Vondo.
In November, ITWeb reported on the many challenges SA faces in terms of realising smart city plans.
While SA has several plans to make cities smart over the next few decades, few cities’ plans managed to get off the ground and progress is painfully slow.
Several cities have plans to become smart, including the City of Cape Town’s five-year strategy, while the City of Johannesburg aims to be smart by 2040, with the City of Tshwane following 15 years later.
However, these plans are often beset by challenges in understanding exactly what is needed, and then developing a successful implementation roadmap.
While SA has been positioned as being “way ahead of other African countries” when it comes to smart city plans, the issue is in how municipalities are managed and their backlog in efficiencies.
Johannesburg, 30 Mar 2015